Justin Masterson just didn’t have it – again.
And this time being Monday’s start in the first game of a four-game series against the visiting New York Yankees. And this time may have been the last shot for the former Indians ace, who hasn’t been able to find the command for a majority of the season that previously made him an All-Star.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder, who may or may not still be trying to pitch though a sore knee, just can’t seem to get his long limbs moving in the right direction at the same time. That point has been driven home in ugly fashion repeatedly over the last month, as he’s averaged 3 2/3 innings over his past five starts.
In Masterson’s latest debacle that led to a 5-3 Indians loss, he spotted the visitors a 5-0 lead in only two-plus innings. His troubles started quickly in a second inning that went like this: back-to-back doubles to Brian McCann and Brian Roberts, an Ichiro Suzuki single, a Kelly Johnson walk, Francisco Cervelli being drilled in the left thigh and a mound visit by pitching coach Mickey Callaway.
Finally, it took a highlight-reel double play worthy of Sports Center that was pulled off between first baseman Carlos Santana and catcher Yan Gomes on a ball off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury to finally put an end to the lengthy and increasingly hard-to-watch inning. By the time the dust settled, rookie left-hander Kyle Crockett had scrambled to his feet and was warming in the bullpen with the big right-hander having thrown 43 pitches through the first two innings.
But with Indians manager Terry Francona trying not to go to the bullpen early – again – Masterson came back out for the third inning. But after he allowed the first two batters reached safely on a walk and hit, Crockett took over. But he too struggled, giving up a RBI single to Suzuki, being called for a balk and hitting Johnson to allow both of his inherited runs to score.
So perhaps it felt like piling on to the Tribe when in addition to Masterson's meltdown, Yankees rookie pitcher Shane Greene was in the midst of no-hitting the Indians through the first four innings. Greene continued to cruise in dominating fashion for two more outs in the fifth inning – having retiring the first 14 batters he faced.
The Indians first hit came in dramatic fashion, when struggling designated hitter Nick Swisher launched a two-out solo home run into the bleachers in left field in the fifth. With the first hit out of the way, Tribe shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera delivered another two-out run for the Tribe the following inning via a RBI single to left as well.
In the eighth, Gomes led off with a 384-foot solo home run off former Indians left-handed pitcher and No. 1 pick David Huff, trimming the Yankees lead further to two runs. But that was as close as the host inched as right-hander Dellin Betances went on to earn his first career save in the ninth after Michael Brantley’s lead-off single went for naught.